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President Cyril Ramaphosa: Access to Coronavirus COVID-19 Tools Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting

10 Sep 2020

Your Excellencies,

Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres,

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,

President of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen,

Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Facilitation Council, Ms Erna Solberg,

Chair of NEPAD, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to address this inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. I accept the great honour that has been bestowed on my country to co-chair the council alongside Prime Minister Solberg. The ACT-Accelerator is a ground-breaking and innovative mechanism, a product of an ongoing and steadfast collaboration.

Since it was set up in April, it has achieved promising results, and is now poised to deliver much more. It is essential that African countries benefit from the vaccines being developed. The clinical testing of the vaccines needs to include African populations to ensure that the vaccines are appropriate for Africans. We cannot achieve universal health coverage when the COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well resourced in terms of research, manufacturing, distribution and service.

As long as someone in the world has the new coronavirus, however remote they may be, we are all at risk from the resurgence of COVID-19. We therefore need to move swiftly to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine at the same time. Countries must together support current global initiatives to fund COVID-19 vaccines. We should use all available infrastructure to conduct research to find safe and effective vaccines.

The efforts by WHO to enable collaboration among scientists to conduct clinical trials is very welcome. We all need to support these global efforts because they are likely to massify the availability of vaccines that are appropriate for specific locations and populations. We must also incentivise vaccine development, especially for pharmaceutical companies. They may be concerned that it will not be profitable. As some have already done, governments may need to subsidise the development of vaccines as an incentive to ensure fast and adequate production.

As a global community, we must encourage people to participate in safe clinical trials of different vaccines. The ACT-Accelerator is vital to the achievement of these goals. It offers us the requisite tools at the speed and scale needed and an equitable mechanism to distribute them. Now that it is a proven, functioning mechanism, we must waste no time in rallying to support it with the political and, crucially, the financial resources it needs to succeed.

As South Africa and on behalf of the African Union, we look forward to this cooperation and working with all States and partners to achieve our collective objectives.

I thank you.

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